Did psycho-demographics help Donald Trump win the US presidency? Several recent articles, including this one, have chronicled the use of this type of consumer profiling and related marketing tactics as the secret sauce behind Trump's winning campaign against rival Hillary Clinton.
But just what is a psycho-demographic profile? This kind of profile looks at what you like and don't like to determine what you might want to buy, who you might want to vote for, and what marketing messages would most motivate you to take a particular action. For instance, instead of segmenting this middle-aged female suburban resident as a soccer mom, it might profile her according to whether she liked the TV show Glee on Facebook and draw conclusions about her politics and consumer preferences based on that.
Michal Kosinski is an assistant professor at Stanford, and a doctor of psychology and holds a Masters degree in psychometrics. He created a method to profile consumers according to their Facebook likes. Recent reports say that a consulting firm unaffiliated with Kosinski, Cambridge Analytica, leveraged that research to deliver the White House victory for Trump. (Kosinski will be our guest on AllAnalytics radio on May 23, and you can register here now to join us for that show.)
If you want to take Kosinski's algorithm for a test run yourself you can go to this web page and link your Facebook or Twitter profile, or input some text. When I linked my Facebook profile and asked the page to evaluate me, it did correctly guess my Myers Briggs type as INTP, which is a rarer type, especially for women. I thought that was pretty impressive that it got that right. But it also predicted that I am male, which is not the case. When I input the text one of one of my blog posts, it predicted that I was an INTJ, also pretty close. And it had even more confidence that I was a man.
(In fact, two other professional women I know who tried it and reported on their results were determined to be men.)
But the power here is really is more about the fact that this algorithm looks at how you think and what you like in addition to what can be observed about you from the outside -- your age, gender, marital status, and home address. And while Kosinski's algorithm predicts your Myers Briggs type, gender, and other traits about you, it also classifies each person according to a "Big 5 Personality" traits lines.
The first is "conservative and traditional" vs "liberal and artistic," and your Facebook likes will determine where you fit along the continuum. The other trait lines are "impulsive and spontaneous" vs. "organized and hardworking," "contemplative" vs. "engaged with the outside world," "competitive" vs. "team working and trusting," and "laid back and relaxed" vs. "easily stressed and emotional."
By marketing to you based on your psychology and personal preferences rather than what you are supposed to like because you are a 50-year-old married suburban woman, or a 25-year-old single urban man, this type of profiling may offer marketers a more accurate tool to use to craft messaging.
This type of profiling has been in use for years, Cathy O'Neil pointed out in a post for Bloomberg earlier this year. And it's been used not just by Trump's campaign, but also by Obama's and by Hillary Clinton's campaign, too.
You can bet it will be used for years to come as well. I hope you can join us as we welcome Kosinski to our show on May 23. Have questions for him? Post your questions in the comment section of the registration page, and we'll ask them during the show.